The latest blow to the world’s greatest Halo shout-out, Microsoft revealed via support pages that it’ll soon be shutting down the Cortana app — not for everyone, but certainly for some of its biggest markets.
The change was quietly revealed in a Cortana support article on Microsoft’s site. Microsoft said it’s “integrating Cortana into your Microsoft 365 productivity apps” and therefore discontinuing the app itself. Starting January 31, you’ll no longer be able to download the Cortana app. According to Microsoft, the app will be pulled from the Google Play and App Stores in UK, Australia, Germany, Mexico, China, Spain, Canada, and India at that time. The app will still be available in the US, but I’ll wager for not much longer after that.
As for why it’s making this change, a Microsoft spokesperson told TNW:
Cortana is an integral part of our broader vision to bring the power of conversational computing and productivity to all our platforms and devices. To make Cortana as helpful as possible, we’re integrating Cortana deeper into your Microsoft 365 productivity apps, and part of this evolution involves ending support for the Cortana mobile app on Android and iOS.
For those who used the service to create lists and tasks, Microsoft says, “Cortana reminders, lists, and tasks are automatically synced to the Microsoft To Do app, which you can download to your phone for free.”
Microsoft’s been slowly-but-surely killing Cortana over the last year — or, given the “deeper integration” they mentioned, perhaps “suppressing” is more accurate to say. The voice assistant has been removed from the Windows search bar and from Xbox One, and now it’s no longer going to have its own app. Supposedly the removal of the latter was because, according to an Xbox exec, the console’s directives “moving away from on-console experiences to cloud-based assistant experiences.” Cortana’s apparently not one of those cloud-based assistants, but Microsoft did recently add Google Assistant support.
As for what the company plans to do with Cortana now, Andrew Schuman, Microsoft’s head of Cortana (what a title) told Windows Central that it works best with Outlook: “We have 100 million active users in Outlook Mobile. Users are using Outlook as a hub every day. Going in multiple times a day, always checking what’s coming next. It is a much more natural invocation of an assistant, especially since an assistant is about managing time, people, and tasks.”
In addition to leaving the stores, Microsoft says “there will be an updated version of Microsoft Launcher with Cortana removed” on January 31.
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